The Competitive Edge
- Using Non-Traditional Business Skills to Achieve Career Success
by Dr. Linda J. Taylor
With companies of all types now feeling the effects of the economic downturn, following a period of rapid global and technological development, the pressures on employees, as well as organisations, have changed dramatically. The employment market in all disciplines is highly competitive and with many firms downsizing, and fewer companies hiring, competition is likely to become even more aggressive. Treasurers are not immune from this trend, but even those whose jobs would seem secure need to continue to demonstrate value - both personally and as a department. With this in mind, we are delighted to present the first in a two-part series by Dr Linda Taylor. In this first article, she outlines the importance of political skills. In the second, which will appear in the next edition of TMI, she looks at social skills and offers advice on effective networking.
So, you’ve worked hard, met your deadlines, done extra work, and regularly put in extra time at the office. But you still haven’t achieved the career success you believe you deserve. Have you seen other colleagues get promoted and not understood why them and not you? The possible problem - you are still relying exclusively on traditional business skills to achieve career success.
The solution: Develop and use non-traditional business skills.
“I believe that my lack of development in this area [non-traditional business skills] has impacted my career.... It is an area that I am currently trying to develop.”
Individuals frustrated with their career success may be relying exclusively on the use of traditional business skills such as education, training, and work experience. The business environment, however, has changed, and what was once required to be successful is no longer enough. Recent research shows that the traditional skill set used in the past will no longer suffice on its own to guarantee career success. For individuals, this means taking control of their career management and adding to their skill set, using non-traditional skills in addition to traditional ones.
The business environment, however, has changed, and what was once required to be successful is no longer enough.
The new business environment of increased competition, global markets and continuous communication and technology improvements has impacted both organisations and individuals. Organisations have downsized, restructured, and outsourced their work. Individuals have felt the changes with job losses throughout the entire organisation, there is no longer a “psychological contract” or a womb-to-tomb mentality which guarantees employment, and managers have become so concerned about their own jobs they have little time or energy to help their staffs.
Bottom line, career success is more difficult to achieve then ever before. The successful use of non-traditional business skills can provide the competitive edge between you and your competition.
Think of it this way: Traditional business skills are those that you usually list on your resume. A good resume will get you the interview. However, good non-traditional business skills will get you the job.
While the use of non-traditional skills is not a substitute for the use of traditional business skills, research does prove that they are a requirement for achieving career success. Non-traditional skills are varied, including such skills and tactics as gender management, impression management, and proactive behaviour. Four of the most widely accepted and extensively used are reviewed here - political skills, social skills, mentoring, and networking. Although the latter two skills are, perhaps, the most known of the non-traditional skill set, the first two are equally important. What they really encompass, and their skilful use, however, are not as well known or discussed.
Non-traditional skills and tactics, such as networking and mentoring, have proven to be very effective towards the realisation of career success. Influence tactics using political and social skills have proven to be very successful in organisational interfaces. In recent research conducted by the Centre of Creative Leadership, a significant contributor to executive derailment has been the lack of these non-traditional skills.
Here’s a quick definition of the skills. We will look at each one in more detail, take the mystery away, and break them down in a very analytical manner.
- Political skills: the ability to engage in behaviour, which is strategically designed to maximise short-term or long-term self-interest. This behaviour is either consistent with, or at the expense of, others’ interests.
- Social skills: a set of unique skills which all revolve around the ability of individuals to successfully interact within their own echelon of the organisation, as well as with the corporate elite of their business world.
- Mentoring: the widely recognised practice of enhancing the professional or organisational development of an individual through the assignment of a skilled and experienced individual, to help accelerate the performance of another person.
- Networking: the process of getting access to other people’s knowledge and skills.
“Too late in my career I have learned that these [non-traditional business skills] are far more important than quality and quantity of work. My career has been dramatically disappointing. I always thought work spoke for itself, but it does not, at least in a large corporation with ‘cloned” management styles.’”